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Cornells in Watauga & Davie Counties
Posted by: Cherie (ID *****0612) Date: September 27, 2003 at 10:52:33
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I am searching for the parents and specific birthplace of Nathan Cornell, born in North Carolina about 1813. He appeared in Watauga County, NC (then Ashe County) in the early 1830’s, and married Nancy Hately Holtsclaw, widow of Benjamin Holtsclaw, in 1834. Nancy was the daughter of Moses and Catherine (Whittington) Hately, born Sep 1, 1806 and died Jun 16, 1889. At the time of her marriage to Nathan, she had 4 Holtsclaw children – Wiley, Sarah (Sally), Rufus and William.

Nathan first appeared on the 1840 Ashe County census in John Ray’s division, page 35, listed between Franklin Baird and Council Harmon, with 9 children and 2 adults in the household. I have not found any male Cornells listed in Ashe/Watauga county other than Nathan until his sons were listed in 1850, so I believe he was the only one of his family to migrate there. All subsequent male Cornells are his sons, grandsons, etc. I have been told that the Cornell name was pronounced CUR-nul through most of the 1800’s, and later the current pronunciation cor-NELL was used. This would explain some of the variations in spelling that I have come across – CORNELL, CORNELS, CORNALS, CURNALS, KERNELL, COLONELS.

There are a several female Cornells listed in the 1850 census and later that I cannot account for. I believe they are related to Nathan in some way and would very much like to discover the relationship.

Sarah (age 30) and Ellen (age 5) Cornals are listed with Nathan and Nancy on the 1850 census, household 349/353. There is a Sally Cornells (age 40) listed in the Benjamin Council household in the 1860 census, household 169/126, page 363A, and I believe this is the same woman. Ellen is not listed in 1860.

Catharine (age 23) and Elizabeth (age 7) Cornels are listed with Sarah Hagaman (age 50) on the 1850 census in household 234/237. There is a notice in the Watauga Democrat dated Nov 15, 1894 stating, “Katy Cornells died last Sunday, aged 70 years”, possibly the same woman. I have not found Catherine listed on any census records after 1850.

Louisa Curnals (age 8) is listed with the Ebiniser Smith family on the 1850 census in household 189/192. I have not found Louisa listed anywhere after this.

Polly Cornell (sometimes listed as Cornells) appeared on the 1860 and 1870 censuses as cook/housekeeper for the Benjamin Council family. Her daughter Amanda (Manda), born Oct 1852, is also listed with her in these census years. Polly appeared on the 1880 and 1900 censuses as cook/housekeeper for the James P. Council family. James is the son of Benjamin Council. Daughter Amanda is listed with Polly in 1880, but married about 1885 to James Hughes. She is listed with her husband and 3 children (Maggie, May and Adam) on the 1900 census. The family name is listed as “Hews”. Polly appeared on the 1910 and 1920 censuses with the James W. Horton family. James Horton’s wife, Polly, was a daughter of Benjamin Council, so Polly Cornell remained with the Council family most of her life. On the 1910 census, Polly’s grandson, Adam, is listed as a hired boy, and on the 1920 census, her daughter, Amanda Hughes, is listed as a servant. James Hughes had died sometime after 1900 and before Jan 25, 1907. James and Amanda’s daughter Maggie married on that date to Benjamin Cornell, grandson of Nathan and Nancy, and Maggie’s father is listed as deceased on the marriage license. Polly Cornell died on Nov 22, 1921 at age 97. Her death certificate gives her birth date as Jan 16, 1824 in Vilas, NC, mother unknown, father listed as Nathan Cornell, born in Lexington, NC.

I don’t believe my Nathan Cornell could have been Polly’s biological father, as he would have been only 11 years old when she was born. He may, however, have taken her into his family and she considered him a father figure. On the 1840 census for Nathan Cornell, there is a female in the 16-20 age group checked, and none of Nathan’s or Nancy’s daughters would have been that old. Polly would have been 16.

I suspect that my Nathan Cornell may have come from what is now Davie County, NC. I have found Cornells listed in the 1800-1840 census records for Rowan and then Davie County. James Cornell is listed in Rowan County from 1800-1830. There is a Benjamin and a Joseph Cornell listed in Davie County in 1840; I believe these to be James’ sons and that James is the son of Benjamin Cornell who had come to North Carolina from Maryland in the early 1770’s. James remained in NC when his father returned to Maryland. The names James, Benjamin and Joseph were used by Nathan and his sons in naming their own children, so that is a possible clue that the families are connected. Also, in the 1880 census, Nathan lists both of his parents as being born in North Carolina.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who has information about the Davie County Cornells and any connection between that family and the Watauga County Cornells. I would also very much like to find out how Polly Cornell and the other Cornell women mentioned above are connected to Nathan.

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